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Reader test: VW Golf GTI

2008-10-17 07:46

John Marshall

I have had the absolute pleasure of owning a Volkswagen Golf GTI for nearly three and a half years. My friends keep asking me how it feels to see these cars all over the place and I always tell them they are popular for a reason…

I hurried to buy one when it was released in April 2005. The pricing was very keen and with interest rates low back then waiting lists were long. I eventually found one that was immediately available in George, of all places, and I flew down that same week.


The drive back to Pretoria was the start of a love affair.

Jumping into this car from a MK4 GTI, I immediately noticed the huge grip and sharp turn-in when compared with the outgoing model. Body roll was non-existent as I hurried through the mountain passes trying to get home before dark.

The chassis is absolutely brilliant; it's no wonder that current hot hatches are still being compared to the GTI. The ride is slightly hard with the 18-inch wheel option, but hardly uncomfortable.

There is no steering feedback, however VW still managed to make it feel sporty with much less power assistance (electrical in the Golf 5’s case) compared with the rest of the range.


I wasn’t expecting the performance to be mind blowing. The 147kw was only 15kw more than the outgoing model, but boy was I wrong!

The FSI turbo performs effortlessly with nearly zero turbo lag. It did run out of puff after 5 000 r/min; however VW sorted this out with a few engine software upgrades that were made available at dealers. It now pulls to 6 000 r/min with ease.

Fuel consumption can be anywhere from 6 to 16 litres per 100km, it all depends how you drive it.

Reliability has been excellent with only two diverter valves being replaced on my car. As mine was one of the first batches it had to have a steering rack replaced due to a slight grinding noise. Other than that it has been an absolute pleasure to own over the last 75 000 km.


In standard form the GTI blends in pretty well. For those that need more show the 18-inch wheels do a good job.

However I have made a few cosmetic changes so that my GTI stands out a bit more; mine has colour-coded bumpers and a chrome boot strip. I also bought a second set of tail lights and blackened those. Too much? Maybe, but you have to admit it looks good.


Everyone complains that the GTI only comes in five-door format, but personally I think it does increase its usefulness and it just looks better! I’m a bachelor and I still found those two extra doors very useful and I have also packed that boot with 300 plus kilogrammes of tiles, treadmills, shower doors you name it.

Resale value has been strong, although in the current market it’s much of a muchness really. Service back-up has been reasonable but not excellent.


I have already been bitten by the “buy a new car” bug a few times this year, especially the Audi S3 and BMW 135i. It hasn’t happened because every time I get into the GTI I feel exactly the same way I did when I first drove it from George.

I’m actually considering keeping it for my fiancée as a “mommy’s car” for when we are married – I have no doubt it will be well up to the task. Maybe the Scirocco will look good next to it?

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